Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Winnowing the Field: Happy Trails #91-60

It's been a while since our last "Happy Trails" post. But it's high time that we doff our cap and pour out a taste for our departed brethren whose hopes of a trip to Brazil must now be confined to the same "off-peak" lucky break kayak.com searches that the rest of us have.

#91 Adeu Andorra
Why they lost: Inability to capitalize on home-field advantage. Unlike the Ecuadorians who own in Quito, Andorra doesn't get any boost from playing at the highest pitch in Europe (Communal d'Andorra la Vella), ceding 9 goals at home without scoring one.
What we'll miss: Cranky pants Catalan separatists (one step above the Quebecois whose poutine laced tirades are just irritating now)

#90 Bis Spater, Lichtenstein
Why they lost: Any time you lose 8-1 AT HOME you're pretty well sunk. On the plus side that loss was against Bosnia & Herzogovinia, rather than arch rivals Latvia.
What we'll miss: Irritating fans of philately by joking how postage stamps are bigger than Lichtenstein...especially since there is a superb postage stamp museum in the capital, Vaduz

#89 Nagha Naghrak, Malta
Why they lost: Their stunning 1-0 win in Armenia may be the downfall of Armenia's quixotic quest for a World cup bid, but it was also the lone highlight in a dismal campaign with a -14 goal differential.
What we'll miss: Taking the chance to push Malta to stop the frantic shuttling of refugees to and fro across the Mediterranean in rickety, likely doomed boats rather than continuing say...humanitarian aid.

Thanks to Nursultan and Kanye, this is only
the third biggest insult to Kazakhstan
#88 Qosh sau bolyngdar, Kazakhstan
Why they lost: The team has been reeling ever since the 2006 documentary by beloved national journalist Borat Sagdiyev was revealed to be a mockery by British comedian Sascha Baron Cohen. The incessant joking by rival teams often reduces them to tears in the middle of matches.
What we'll miss: Besides obviously dumb Borat jokes there's also Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is rapidly shooting up the charts of moronic, slightly despotic world leaders (and that was before he called in Kanye West to perform at his grandson's wedding

#87 Ya Su, Cyprus
Why they lost: Some teams face a scoring drought, Cyprus faces a scoring dust bowl. It's been a year since the tiny Mediterranean island got to go all goofy celebration style. Since Efstathios Aloneftis scored at home versus Norway in the 42nd minute, Cyprus has been shut out. True they got a win over second place Iceland before that, and a draw with group leading Switzerland after it...but not scoring's definitely not helping.
What we'll miss: The slim possibility that Cyprus could have faced either Turkey or Greece in a playoff, inciting all kinds of patriotic kerfuffels [though hopefully no actual trouble].
Bressan wondering where the
help is. (eurosport.com)

#86 Ubachymsia, Belarus
Why they lost: The Belarusians cannot build on any kind of success in World Cup qualifying. Just miss a playoff spot in '02? Tank in '06. Get your best ever goal differential (plus 5) in '10? Slip back to -8 in '14...and that's even before a game in Spain. 
What we'll miss: Renan Bressan, dominated the Belarusian league, leading it in goals in 2010 and 2011 for league champ FC BATE Borisov. Though he's been less effective in Russia, he is easily the leader of Belarus' youth movement. Okay...he is Belarus' youth movement (if only all Belarusian's were also Brazilian)

#85 A Pli Tard, Moldova
Why they lost: Failure to face San Marino more than twice in the qualifying process. Sure there a FIFA rules and everything, but come on Moldova, don't be so small minded.
What we'll miss: A few young talents mark Moldova as a potentially improving team, particularly if Artur Ionita (already a hot commodity in the Swiss league) and Serghei Gheorgiev become a powerful midfield combination for the next few decades.

#84 Xudaafiz, Azerbaijain
Why they lost: Five draws in eight matches, isn't bad, but it's not exactly the stuff that winning campaigns are made of either...hence the whole "draw" thing.
What we'll miss: Their national team logo. Half ball on fire. Half-paint company advertisement

#83 Kargard Iqaveet, Georgia
Why they lost: Pulling a nil-nil draw against France at home in Tiblisi was a great result for the Crusaders. But it came a little late in the qualification for it to matter much, or at all, so it ends up being just a nice consolation prize.
What we'll miss: Awkward conversations in which fans of Uga the bulldog think they've done something worth drinking about. Even though they'll still take the opportunity to drink about it.

#82 Pob Hwyl, Wales
Why they lost: It didn't help that Gareth Bale was unwilling to play both Forward spots, defend, goaltend and sell the popcorn.
What we'll miss: International media swooning over Mr. Bale for a whole World Cup...thereby keeping the focus on Messi, Neyemar and half-a-dozen other Nike branded superstars.

#81 Eddi, Luxembourg
Why they lost: The goalkeeping is more than a little suspect for the Red Lions. Ceding 9 goals in two matches against Israel, and matches ahead against Russia and Portugal. Without keeping the biscuit out of the basket, it's a little tough to get ahead in life.
What we'll miss: Threatening Luxembourgish coach Luc Holtz with the aged spectre of his future: Lou Holtz.

#80 Slan go foill, Northern Ireland
Why they lost: Despite a 1-0 win over Russia, the Norn Iron struggled to find a decent run of success at Winfield Park in Belfast. Losses to Israel and Portugal hurt, draws with Luxembourg and Azerbaijan were the real crusher.
What we'll miss: Working with a number of Belfast-bred teachers, my Northern Irish accent is better than my Irish, so I guess I'll miss irritating friends and family.

#79 Jumalaga, Estonia
Why they lost: Attacking midfielder, Joel Lindpere does a marvelous job for both the blue shirts of Estonia and the blue and red of the Chicago Fire. But at 31 he's a bit old for the national team...as are the 9 other regular team members who trot out against Europe's freshest talents.
What we'll miss: The chance to trot out my 9th Grade "World Cultures" report factoids about Estonia (culled from the 1997 World Book Encyclopedia). Did you know that one of Estonia's major exports is "ore"? Or...was back in 1997?

#78 Sveiki Latvia
Why they lost: They didn't look great in any qualifier, but it might help to have some forwards who could balance out the defensive aura cast by Captain Kaspars Grokss and youngster Vitalijs Maksimenko.
What we'll miss: The chance for Latvians to take those heathen Lithuanians down a peg.

#77 Dogledanje, Macedonia
Why they lost: The Red Lynx have the distinct disadvantage to be building a new generation of talent cobbled together by a wealth of players who ply their trade anywhere but Macedonia. From Captain Goran Pandav with Napoli to youngster David Babunski on the Barcelona B team, Macedonians really only get to play together in camps making cohesion and development a bit tough.
What we'll miss: Snooty arthouse showings of films by cinematic pioneers Yanaki and Milton Manaki, it's hard to imagine many soccer fans who wouldn't also enjoy a little art house falderal.
C'mon Lithuania, give us more Arvydas!

#76 Iki Greito Pasimatmyo, Lithuania
Why they lost: In their last two matches in the group, the Lithuanians fielded a team with a combined 20 goals over a combined 385 caps...and that was the line up with fire power (scoring three goals against Latvia and Lichtenstein)
What we'll miss: Arvydas Sabonis.

#75 Nakemiin, Finland
Why they lost: The Eagle-Owls were doomed the minute they got lumped into group I with Spain and France. Even a draw away to Spain couldn't keep them in the hunt.
What we'll miss: A distraction for our Finnish friends in those long brutal summer months between sled-dog racing season.

#74 Do Videnja, Serbia
2nd 2010 entrant Eliminated
Why they lost: What happened, Serbia? A team that was all prospect and potential, that offered so many talented players and such a strong defense that they were considered a model of Eastern European strength on the international scene. Qualifying for the cup as Serbia and Montegro in '06 and as just plain Serbia in 2010 they seemed poised to be a long term power. But Dejan Stankovic and Nemanja Vidic proved to be too integral to team success and with their declines and retirements coinciding with increased struggles in Europe
What we'll miss: The chance for my wife and her slew of proudly Serbian relatives (from the great city of Red Lodge Montana) to bubble over with national pride during the cup.

#73 Zbohom, Slovakia
3rd 2010 Entrant Eliminated
Why they lost: Slovakia's decline was far more predictable. A seemingly fluk-ish qualifying in 2010, a stunning upset of a lethargic Italy in the group stage before flaming out against Holland in the round of 16 and then struggles in qualifying for Europe 2012 and the World Cup. They should have had a better chance with an inconsistent Greece as their main rival for qualification, but losses at home to the Greeks and Bosnia/Herzogovina sealed their return to the fringes of futbol attention.
What we'll miss: The slim chance of Turn-Back-The-Clock Uniform night with piratey shirts and stirrup socks.

#72 Jojoechajevypeve, Paraguay
4th 2010 Entrant Eliminated
Why they lost: Paraguay's fall from grace is closer to down right baffling. Four straight qualifications for the cup. A quarter-final berth in 2010. They don't seem like they should be dismissed so decisively (unlike say, the North Koreans). But when you can't get a win anywhere on the road AND drop home matches to Argentina, Chile and...Venezuela? Well, I guess Roque Santa Cruz and Justo Villar had to get old at some point. 
What we'll miss: Long Guarini ramblings from my grad school friends, and groomsman (all of whom have extensive experience in Paraguay)

#71 Wauslegga, Bolivia
Why they lost: Long the forgotten cousin Oliver of South American qualifying, the "green ones" seemed to save their best for the biggest teams on the continent: beating perennial qualifiers Paraguay, and semi-finalists Uruguay at home, and drawing with Argentina on the road. And while those performances might have been nice, they meant doodly-squat when you can't beat Venezuela or Peru anywhere.
What we'll miss: Our quadrennial: Hey! Remember Marco Etcheverry moment. Speaking of which, HEY! Remember Marco Etcheverry? Good times...good times.
That's a Peruvian team we can get behind

#70 Uq Ratukama, Peru
Why they lost: The Incas' stubborn refusal to build a stadium atop Machuu Pichu. C'mon, if Quito is tough to play in Machu Pichu's going to be helacious and there's no way you drop matches to Columbia and Uruguay at home then.
What we'll miss: Analyzing the soccer team's strength in comparison with the Quidditch team's strength.

#69 Salang sentle, Botswana
Why They Lost: The Zebras have a rather punchless offense, with just two goals to their name (both at home, in a draw and a loss). Their youngest stars are defenders and midfielders so, that probably won't change any time soon.
What We'll Miss: Inspiration for another Alexander McCall Smith collection of mysteries for The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency. ("The Zebra in Brazil"?)

#68 Magha, Gabon
Why They Lost: The Panthers had a slim shot at qualification in their final match, and fielded a rather young and alotgether inexperienced team. They did not keep up with Burkina Faso and were summarily ousted from the tournament.
What We'll Miss: Like Estonia previously, the chance to trot out my 9th Grade Geography report on Gabon, ahem: "Albert Schwietzer, the famous doctor, spent many years serving the people of Gabon." You're welcome everyone who doesn't look at Wikipedia.

#67 Tionana, Malawi

Why They Lost: Trailing Nigeria by two points, the Flames needed a win to stun the world and knock out the Super Eagles. Sadly they went to Calabar, Nigeria, and were utterly overwhelmed on the road, squandering their shot.
What We'll Miss: Midfielder Tawango Chimodzi flashing that sweet, sweet Greek paycheck as the lone Malawian national team player to be based in Europe.

Even if he's a scientologist, better
Whitaker than Amin...

#66 Mweraba, Uganda

Why They Lost: So many players flying in from so far afield (Iceland, the US, Vietnam and Poland to name but four) had very little time to gel as a unit in Marrakesh ahead of their do-or-die-tilt against Senegal. Unsurprisingly, the cranes died.
What We'll Miss: Forrest Whitaker attempting to rally the troops as Idi Amin in the worst-inspirational-sports-speech ever.

#65 Allah Yismallak, Libya

Why They Lost: Honestly? I don't know, maybe there was just a little too much going on with the political instability, the threat of losing one's homes, families and welfare and the tremendous national pressure on them to steal a victory over Cameroon in their last match. Or maybe they knew that it's just a game...not life-and-death, especially as they have seen life-and-death.
What We'll Miss: Pointing and laughing at stupid Ghadaffi mistakes.

#64 Ate Logo, Cape Verde Islands
Why They Lost: Back in June I wrote that the problem was "Late blooming. The Tubaroes Azuis (Blue Sharks) started out with three straight losses, but big wins this month against Equitorial Guinea and Sierra Leone saw them up to second in their group behind Tunisia. A little earlier and The Eagles of Carthage might have had some competition."--Now the solution is simpler: "Inability to read rules and regulations"--If Cape Verde had held one man out of their line up against Tunisia they'd be mulling a play-off match up instead of how to spend the winter in Cape Verde. (Might we suggest living on a beautiful island...oh yeah...you already do that.)
What We'll Miss: Hipsters trotting out Cape Verde jerseys in an effort to be cool and obscure.

#63 Tikala Malamu, Congo

Why They Lost: Credit to the Red Devils, they went from the play-in games to within one point of the  World Cup Playoffs (a feat that Ethiopia actually did accomplish), and with a scad of talented young players breaking into Europe they likely won't have to work as hard in the future.
What We'll Miss: The burgeoning play-making combo of Delvin N'Dinga and Prince Oniangue.

First of many, Emmanuel...
#62 Fikani Biwo, Zambia
Why They Lost: Even for a hard core Black Stars supporter like myself, it's a little tough to say goodbye to the Copper Bullets, one of the true feel good stories of African football. Coming off a 2012 Cup of Nations Title, Zambia gave Ghana all they could handle and more in the qualifying region's group of death. Sadly some untimely draws (away at Lesotho and home v. Sudan) saw them off despite beating the Black Stars at home.
What We'll Miss: With 35 caps at age 20, Emmanuel Mbola is clearly going to be a fixture of the backline for years to come. And while he might not have netted the high profile transfer to Spurs at age 17, he still has plenty of time to get a pay day.

#61 Sizobonana, South Africa
The 5th 2010 World Cup Finalist eliminated
Why They Lost: Since the heartbreaking "goals-scored" tiebreaker nocked Bafana Bafana out of the 2002 World Cup, the once rising power in Africa has fallen on hard times, after a lackluster showing at home (with only a win over an absolutely incompetent French team) they're back to their "not-quite-good-enough" status, even when their group includes Botswana and Ethiopia
What We'll Miss: The soothing sound of vuvuzelas...wait..no, I won't miss that.

#60 Ertagacha khair, Uzbekistan
Why They Lost: I'll own this one. I've been boosting the White Wolves chances since I saw them give an excellent performance in the 2011 Asian Cup not to mention some good U-20 performances. They had a lead going into the final stages of Asian qualifying only to see Iran squeeze past the post and then fall to Jordan in a heartbreaking penalty shootout. Sure it's easiest to lay the blame on Anzur Ismailov for the final miss...but at this point, a loss is a loss and the best thing to do is hope it turns out better next time around.
What We'll Miss: Smug self-satisfaction in assuming I spotted Uzbek greatness before it happened.

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